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Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2000
By Kevin Mayhood, Dispatch Staff Reporter
Had Michael G. Sargent lost his bout with pneumonia, his stepmother might be more at peace. “Sometimes, I wish he’d died of pneumonia,” Rosemary Sargent said. “That I could understand.” Instead, members of Sargent’s family were in Franklin County Common Pleas Court yesterday to see Rex V. Beach sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for Sargent’s murder.
And what will remain forever a mystery is why Beach, 36, walked down his North Linden street one day in May 1999 and shot Sargent — a man he’d never met — execution- style.
Sargent’s relatives say they can only hope that Beach spends his time in prison thinking about the man he killed. “We couldn’t get the death penalty,” said Sargent’s sister, Kelley Yates. “Hopefully, he will sit there . . . and think about my brother.”
Officials said that Sargent’s family agreed to a deal that allowed Sargent to plead guilty to murder and two counts of felonious assault. Sargent, 48 and a mail carrier, was shot once in his head on May 10, 1999, after being ordered facedown in the driveway of his daughter’s home on Hiawatha Street.
He had questioned Beach because the man was carrying a gun toward the cookout where Sargent’s children and grandchildren had gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day. Beach had been firing a .357-caliber Magnum into the air and carrying it around the neighborhood.
Residents had first called police about 7:45 p.m. about shots being fired. But police didn’t arrive until 8:14 p.m., after a 911 call was made that Sargent had been shot. Columbus police said at the time that a call of shots being fired isn’t handled as an immediate emergency.
After the shooting, Beach barricaded himself in his home at 2766 Hiawatha St. and fired at police until he was talked out nearly six hours after Sargent was killed. When Judge Richard S. Sheward asked Beach if he had anything to say yesterday, Beach declined.
The man had no criminal record until the shooting. “He had a relatively normal life before that day: married, two children, a job,” said Lou Williams, his attorney.
But on that day, Beach, an electrician with a drinking problem, downed five to seven beers after taking the antidepressant Prozac, Williams said.
“He doesn’t remember what happened afterward,” the attorney said. Sargent had returned to delivering mail only days earlier, after recuperating from severe pneumonia.
Yesterday, one if his nieces read a letter from the National Association of Letter Carriers, which honored Sargent as a hero for protecting his loved ones. His daughter Natasha, who had seen her father shot, sobbed in the courtroom.
Sargent, who lived on Osceola Avenue, had been the mail carrier and lived in the same neighborhood.
After his death, residents along his route placed white ribbons on their mailboxes in his memory. Beach had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of aggravated murder, murder and felonious assault. But a psychologist declared him sane.
He pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felonious assault; the most severe charge — aggravated murder — was dropped in return. Williams and Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Doug Stead agreed to recommend 18 years to life in prison for Beach. Sheward followed the recommendation.